vendredi 10 mai 2019

Human Research as Canadian, Japanese Robot Arms Swap Experiments

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

May 10, 2019

The Expedition 59 crew focused intensely on human research today to improve the health of people on Earth and in space. The residents aboard the International Space Station are busy exploring how the human body and other organisms adapt to space helping NASA prepare to go to the moon by 2024.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain split Friday checking on the Kidney Cells experiment seeking innovative treatments for kidney stones, osteoporosis and toxic chemical exposures. Counteracting the space-exacerbated symptoms is critical to the success of a long-term spaceflight to the moon and Mars.

Image above: Four Expedition 59 astronauts pose for a playful portrait inside the Harmony module. Clockwise from left are astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Anne McClain and Nick Hague. Image Credit: NASA.

McClain started her day with Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin researching space-caused head and eye pressure. The quartet tested a specialized suit, the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit, that reverses the upward flow of blood and other fluids toward an astronaut’s head. The crewmates also participated in ultrasound scans of their eyes and veins for the long-running Fluid Shifts study.

In addition, a pair of Canadian and Japanese robotic arms on the station are coordinating to swap external payloads over the weekend. Two Earth and space research facilities inside the SpaceX Dragon’s trunk are being removed for installation on the station. An older atmospheric experiment that has completed its mission will be placed back in Dragon’s trunk.

The Canadarm2 robotic arm removed the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) from the Dragon’s unpressurized trunk. It handed off the OCO-3, a global carbon detection device, to Japan’s smaller robotic arm for installation on the Kibo lab module’s external pallet. Next, the Canadarm2 will extract and install the Space Test Program-Houston 6 hardware for space physics research on the station’s truss structure.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Finally, Japan’s robotic arm attached to Kibo will hand off the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) to the Canadarm2 for installation in Dragon’s trunk. Before Dragon splashes down in the Pacific at the end of May, its trunk with CATS inside will separate during reentry and burn up over Earth’s atmosphere.

A SpaceX Dragon resupply ship delivered CATS in January of 2015 for robotic installation on Kibo’s external pallet. CATS successfully demonstrated low cost atmospheric monitoring techniques from the station.

Related links:

Expedition 59:

Kidney Cells:

Moon and Mars:

Lower Body Negative Pressure suit:

Fluid Shifts:

SpaceX Dragon:

Canadarm2 robotic arm:

Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3):

Kibo lab module:

Space Test Program-Houston 6:

Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS):

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Best regards,

Blue Origin boss Jeff Bezos presents his project

Blue Origin logo.

May 10, 2019

The richest man in the world hopes to help NASA bring astronauts back to the moon in 2024.

Elon Musk dreams of Mars, Jeff Bezos has his head in the moon. The boss of Amazon and the space company Blue Origin, announced Thursday in Washington that he intended to participate in the new conquest of the Moon, presenting a project of stringer. "This is Blue Moon," he said in a press presentation.

Going to Space to Benefit Earth (Full Event Replay)

Behind him, curtains have unveiled a large lander model weighing more than three tons empty, capable of carrying 3.6 tons of material on the lunar surface, and 6.5 tons in a heavier version. "It's an incredible vehicle, and it will go to the moon," said Jeff Bezos. The stringer has been in development for three years, he said. He will be able to bring scientific instruments, four small rovers, but also a future pressurized vehicle for humans, according to him.

Objective 2024

The goal is to moon at the South Pole of the Moon, where there is water. Water can be exploited to produce hydrogen, which would then be used as a fuel to explore the solar system.

Blue Moon lander presentation

He did not give a date for the first launch of this hoist, and Blue Origin did not provide any details. The boss did not talk to reporters. But in his presentation, on a carefully decorated stage illuminated with blue, he subscribed to the goal of Donald Trump's government to send humans back to the moon by 2024. He said his aluner would be ready to accompany this mission.

"We can help keep that time, but only because we started three years ago," said Jeff Bezos. "It's time to go back to the moon, but this time to stay there." And he showed a simulation video of a vehicle able to trace astronauts from the surface to orbit.

Colonies of space

The return to the moon in 2024, announced by the White House, has plunged NASA into a frenzy of activity since the end of March, because this mission was originally scheduled for 2028. Nothing is ready: neither the powerful rocket (SLS) who has to carry the vehicles and astronauts. Neither the elements of the future mini-station in lunar orbit that will serve as relay point between the Earth and the Moon. Neither the starter or rovers needed by astronauts, including the first woman to set foot on the Earth's natural satellite.

Blue Moon Lunar Crew Lander

But Jeff Bezos, who rarely spoke about the developments of his company Blue Origin, founded in 2000 and which finances more than a billion dollars a year, has made it clear that he wants to help the Nasa.

"My generation's job is to build the infrastructure," Bezos said. "We are going to build a space road". He confirmed that Blue Origin's big rocket, New Glenn, would be ready in 2021. It will offer "a drastic reduction in launch costs," he promised.

Blue Origin's other project is the small New Shepard rocket, intended for short trips of about ten minutes just above the border of space (100 km altitude), for "tourists". The rocket, which has completed eleven empty tests since Texas, will take humans for the first time this year, he confirmed Thursday.

Blue Moon lunar lander: 

Blue Moon Lunar Lander

Blue Origin announced Blue Moon, its large lunar lander capable of delivering multiple metric tons of payload to the lunar surface based on configuration and mission. The cargo variant revealed today can carry 3.6 metric tons to the surface. We have also designed a variant of the lander that can stretch to be capable of carrying a 6.5-metric-ton, human-rated ascent stage. Blue also announced it can meet the current Administration's goal of putting Americans on the Moon by 2024 with the Blue Moon lunar lander.

BE-7 engine: 

BE-7 engine

The Blue Moon lunar lander will be powered by the BE-7 engine, a new addition to Blue Origin’s family of engines. The BE-7’s 40 kN (10,000 lbf) thrust is designed for large lunar payload transport. The engine’s propellants are a highly-efficient combination of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The BE-7 will have its first hotfire this summer. The engine will be available for sale to other companies for use in in-space and lander applications.

Club For the Future:

A non-profit founded by Blue Origin dedicated to inspiring and engaging the next generation of dreamers and space entrepreneurs as we journey to preserve Earth and unlock the potential of living and working in space. The Club will bring together K-12 students, educators and leaders for campaigns and initiatives utilizing Blue Origin’s unique access to space. The Club’s first activity will be to send a postcard to space and back on a future New Shepard mission—the first ever space mail. Learn more on the website ( Follow @ClubforFuture on Twitter and Instagram. and

Blue Origin:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Blue Origin/Gradatim Ferociter/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


How Mission Control Used Robotics to Successfully Restore Full Power for the Space Station

ISS - International Space Station logo.

May 10, 2019

Robotics ground controllers in NASA’s Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston successfully replaced a failed Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU) on the International Space Station with a spare using robotic operations on Thursday, May 2. The operation to replace the failed unit was conducted using the station’s Canadarm2 and Dextre, both part of Canada’s contribution to the International Space Station.

Using complex robotic work to perform critical maintenance allows astronauts to spend more time working on scientific experiments and helps develop better technologies and procedures for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit.

“Developing new robotic systems is extremely important to get our astronauts back to the Moon by 2024,” Robotics Operations Systems Officer Mike Ferullo said. “The techniques and methods that we are developing with Dextre and Canadarm2 are directly applicable to future missions, and the construction and repair of any Moon-based mission will be done with robotics wherever possible. It’s an extremely exciting time to be involved in space robotics.

Dextre attached at Canadarm2

Dextre is a versatile robot used to perform routine maintenance on the station. Equipped with lights, video equipment, a tool platform, and four tool holders, Dextre’s dual-arm design and precise handling capabilities reduces the need for spacewalks to conduct maintenance outside the orbiting laboratory.

The Canadarm2 serves as the station’s robotic arm. It’s used to move supplies, equipment, Dextre and even astronauts. The robotic arm is also used to capture visiting spacecraft and attach them to the station.

The completion of the robotics work was the second time an MBSU was swapped out without the need for a spacewalk.

“Previous replacements allowed us to review different arm configurations and the force with which we pulled the unit out,” Ferullo said. “Every operation we do gives us a better understanding about how to move forward with future repairs and the support of payloads.”

The failure on April 29 of the station’s MBSU-3, one of four power distributors on the station’s backbone truss structure, reduced the station’s power supply by nearly 25 percent. Following the failure, the station crew installed a series of jumpers in the station’s Unity connecting module (Node 1) to reroute power to experiments and hardware and ensure limited impact to continued station operations.

International Space Station (ISS)

“Installing the power jumpers allowed the recovery of several critical pieces of equipment,” Power and Thermal Flight Controller Jay Boucher said. “Even though the jumpers helped continue station operations, replacing the failed unit would be required to regain the redundant power supply required for the US robotic arm to capture SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft that was scheduled to launch.”

Dragon launched successfully on May 4 and was captured and installed on the Earth-facing side of the station two days later to deliver more than 5,500 pounds of research, crew supplies, and hardware to the International Space Station.  

Related links:

Expedition 59:



International Space Station (ISS):

Image, Animation, Text, Credit: NASA/Mark Garcia.


jeudi 9 mai 2019

Why This Martian Full Moon Looks Like Candy

NASA -  2001 Mars Odyssey Mission patch.

May 9, 2019

Image above: These three views of the Martian moon Phobos were taken by NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter using its infrared camera, THEMIS. Each color represents a different temperature range. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/SSI.

For the first time, NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter has caught the Martian moon Phobos during a full moon phase. Each color in this new image represents a temperature range detected by Odyssey's infrared camera, which has been studying the Martian moon since September of 2017. Looking like a rainbow-colored jawbreaker, these latest observations could help scientists understand what materials make up Phobos, the larger of Mars' two moons.

Odyssey is NASA's longest-lived Mars mission. Its heat-vision camera, the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), can detect changes in surface temperature as Phobos circles Mars every seven hours. Different textures and minerals determine how much heat THEMIS detects.

Animation above: This movie shows three views of the Martian moon Phobos as viewed in visible light by NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter. The apparent motion is due to movement by Odyssey's infrared camera, Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), rather than movement by the moon. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/SSI.

"This new image is a kind of temperature bullseye — warmest in the middle and gradually cooler moving out," said Jeffrey Plaut, Odyssey project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which leads the mission. "Each Phobos observation is done from a slightly different angle or time of day, providing a new kind of data."

On April 24, 2019, THEMIS looked at Phobos dead-on, with the Sun behind the spacecraft. This full moon view is better for studying material composition, whereas half-moon views are better for looking at surface textures.

"With the half-moon views, we could see how rough or smooth the surface is and how it's layered," said Joshua Bandfield, a THEMIS co-investigator and senior research scientist at the Space Sciences Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "Now we're gathering data on what minerals are in it, including metals."

Iron and nickel are two such metals. Depending on how abundant the metals are, and how they're mixed with other minerals, these data could help determine whether Phobos is a captured asteroid or a pile of Mars fragments, blasted into space by a giant impact long ago.

These recent observations won't definitively explain Phobos' origin, Bandfield added. But Odyssey is collecting vital data on a moon scientists still know little about — one that future missions might want to visit. Human exploration of Phobos has been discussed in the space community as a distant, future possibility, and a Japanese sample-return mission to the moon is scheduled for launch in the 2020s.

Image above: Artist's concept of NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JPL.

"By studying the surface features, we're learning where the rockiest spots on Phobos are and where the fine, fluffy dust is," Bandfield said. "Identifying landing hazards and understanding the space environment could help future missions to land on the surface."

Odyssey has been orbiting Mars since 2001. It takes thousands of images of the Martian surface each month, many of which help scientists select landing sites for future missions. The spacecraft also serves an important role relaying data for Mars' newest inhabitant, NASA's InSight lander. But studying Phobos is a new chapter for the orbiter.

"I think it's a great example of taking a spacecraft that's been around a very long time and finding new things you can do with it," Bandfield said. "It's great that you can still use this tool to collect groundbreaking science."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. THEMIS was developed by Arizona State University in Tempe in collaboration with Raytheon Santa Barbara Remote Sensing. The THEMIS investigation is led by Philip Christensen at Arizona State University. The prime contractor for the Odyssey project, Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, developed and built the orbiter. Mission operations are conducted jointly from Lockheed Martin and from JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena.

- Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS):

- Mars Odyssey:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Andrew Good.


Crew Relaxes as Two Robotic Arms Prepare for Payload Handoffs

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

May 9, 2019

The Expedition 59 crew has a light duty day today with some science work on the schedule. Meanwhile, robotics controllers are preparing to swap external payloads in the unpressurized trunk of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft.

NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch checked samples today as she continued exploring why pathogens become more virulent in space. Later, she set up hardware for the Kidney Cells experiment that seeks innovative treatments for humans on Earth and in space.

Image above: The three crewmates who rode the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft to the International Space Station gather inside the Rassvet module after conducting a periodic routine emergency drill. From left are, Soyuz Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and NASA Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch.

Astronaut Nick Hague of NASA retrieved sample trays from a materials exposure experiment brought back inside the Kibo lab module. Fellow NASA astronaut Anne McClain checked on mice being observed for changes to their immune systems in microgravity.

Two new experiments are ready for robotic extraction from the SpaceX Dragon and installation on the International Space Station starting Thursday night and into the weekend. An older experiment will be removed from the station and placed back in Dragon.

The remotely controlled Canadarm2 robotic arm will first extract the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) from Dragon’s trunk. Japan’s robotic arm will then take hold of the OCO-3 and install the global carbon detection device on Kibo’s external pallet. The Canadarm2 will then extract and install the Space Test Program-Houston 6 hardware for space physics research on the station’s truss structure.

Image above: Flying over South Atlantic Ocean (Brazil coast), seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27'599 Km/h, altitude: 409,79 Km, image captured by Roland Berga (on Earth in Switzerland) from International Space Station (ISS) using ISS-HD Live application with EarthCam's from ISS on May 8, 2019 at 13:42 UTC.

Finally, the Japanese robotic arm will hand off the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) to the Canadarm2 for installation in Dragon’s trunk. CATS will burn up over Earth’s atmosphere when Dragon’s trunk separates during its reentry at the end of May. A SpaceX Dragon resupply ship delivered CATS in January of 2015 for robotic installation outside Kibo. CATS successfully demonstrated low cost atmospheric monitoring techniques from the station.

Related links:

Expedition 59:

Kidney Cells:

Materials exposure experiment:

Immune systems in microgravity:

SpaceX Dragon:

Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3):

Space Test Program-Houston 6:

Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS):

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

Studying DNA Breaks to Protect Future Space Travelers

Genes in Space logo.

May 9, 2019

Earth’s atmosphere shields life on the ground from cosmic radiation that can damage DNA.  Astronauts in space have no such protection, and that puts them at risk. An investigation on the International Space Station examines DNA damage and repair in space in order to help protect the long-term health of space travelers.

An organism carries all of its genetic information in its deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA. This blueprint for life takes the form of specific sequences of nitrogen bases: adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine, represented by the letters A, C, G and T.

Image above: The miniPCR device, used to make multiple copies of a particular strand of DNA in space. Image Credit: NASA.

One type of DNA damage is double strand breaks, essentially a cut across both strands of DNA. Cells repair these breaks almost immediately, but can make errors, inserting or deleting DNA bases and creating mutations. These mutations may result in diseases such as cancer. Genes in Space-6 looks at the specific mechanism cells use to repair double strand breaks in space.

The investigation takes cells of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to the space station, where astronauts cause a specific type of damage to its DNA using a genome editing tool known as CRISPR-Cas9. The astronauts allow the cells to repair this damage, then make many copies of the repaired section using a process called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with an onboard device, the miniPCR. Another device, MinION, is then used to sequence the repaired section of DNA in those copies. Sequencing shows the exact order of the bases, revealing whether the repair restored the DNA to its original order or made errors.

The investigation represents a number of firsts, including the first use of CRISPR-Cas9 genetic editing on the space station and the first time scientists evaluate the entire damage and repair process in space.

Image above: The student team that developed the Genes in Space 6 experiment. From left to right: David Li, Aarthi Vijayakumar, Michelle Sung, and Rebecca Li. Image Credit: Boeing.

“The damage actually happens on the space station and the analysis also happens in space,” said one of the investigators from miniPCR Bio, Emily Gleason. “We want to understand if DNA repair methods are different in space than on Earth.”

This investigation is part of the Genes in Space program. Founded by miniPCR and Boeing, the program challenges students to come up with DNA experiments in space that involve using the PCR technique and the miniPCR device on the station. Students submit ideas online, and the program chooses five finalists. These finalists are paired with a mentor scientist who helps them turn their idea into a presentation for the ISS Research and Development Conference. A panel of judges selects one proposed experiment to fly to the space station.

“We want to inspire students to think like scientists and give them the opportunity for an authentic science experience that doesn’t cost them anything,” says Gleason. More than 550 student teams submitted ideas last year. The Genes in Space-6 investigation student team includes Michelle Sung, Rebecca Li, and Aarthi Vijayakumar at Mounds View High School in Arden Hills, Minnesota, and David Li, now a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their mentor is Kutay Deniz Atabay at MIT.

Image above: The Genes in Space 6 student team. Image Credit: GENES IN SPACE.

Other investigators include Sarah E. Stahl and Sarah Wallace with NASA's Johnson Space Center Microbiology group in Houston; G. Guy Bushkin, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge; Melissa L. Boyer, Teresa K. Tan, Kevin D. Foley, and D. Scott Copeland at Boeing; and Ezequiel Alvarez Saavedra, Gleason, and Sebastian Kraves at Amplyus LLC, in Cambridge. Amplyus is the parent company of miniPCR Bio.

“One thing the investigation will tell us is yes, we can do these things in space,” said Gleason. “We expect to see the yeast use the error-free method of repair more frequently, which is what we see on Earth; but we don’t know for sure whether it will be the same or not. Ultimately, we can use this knowledge to help protect astronauts from DNA damage caused by cosmic radiation on long voyages and to enable genome editing in space.”

The procedures used in this investigation may have applications for protecting people from radiation and other hazards in remote and harsh locations on Earth as well.

Related links:

Genes in Space-6:



Genes in Space program:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/JSC/International Space Station Program Science Office/Melissa Gaskill.


mercredi 8 mai 2019

Science Aboard Station Today Impacts Astronaut Health Long-Term

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

May 8, 2019

The International Space Station has all but one of its seven ports occupied by two crew ships and four cargo ships today. With plenty of food, fuel and supplies, the Expedition 59 crew is busy conducting new science experiments delivered to the orbital lab.

The crew researched an array of space biology today including pathogen virulence, immune system changes and upper body pressure that can affect mission success. Human research and life science is key in microgravity as NASA learns to support healthy astronauts for longer missions farther into space.

Image above: Expedition 59 Flight Engineers (from left) Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques and Christina Koch are gathered inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch continued studying why pathogens increase in virulence due to the weightless environment of space. She performed inoculation procedures on cell cultures to help scientists understand critical cellular and molecular changes that occur on the absence of gravity.

Koch then joined fellow astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques in the afternoon exploring how the immune system responds during a long-term space mission. The crew is observing dozens of mice on the orbital lab to characterize the response changes since the mouse immune system closely parallels that of humans.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

McClain also participated on more Fluid Shifts research with Flight Engineers Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineer Nick Hague. The trio worked with a variety of biomedical hardware today observing the impacts of increased head and eye pressure caused by microgravity. The long-running human research experiment seeks to reverse the upward flow of fluids and alleviate the symptoms reported by astronauts.

Related links:

Expedition 59:

Human research and life science:


Mouse immune system:

Fluid Shifts:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Best regards,

New Clues About How Ancient Galaxies Lit up the Universe

NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch.

May 8, 2019

Image above: This deep-field view of the sky (center) taken by NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes is dominated by galaxies — including some very faint, very distant ones — circled in red. The bottom right inset shows the light collected from one of those galaxies during a long-duration observation. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Spitzer/P. Oesch/S. De Barros/I.Labbe.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed that some of the universe's earliest galaxies were brighter than expected. The excess light is a byproduct of the galaxies releasing incredibly high amounts of ionizing radiation. The finding offers clues to the cause of the Epoch of Reionization, a major cosmic event that transformed the universe from being mostly opaque to the brilliant starscape seen today.

In a new study, researchers report on observations of some of the first galaxies to form in the universe, less than 1 billion years after the big bang (or a little more than 13 billion years ago). The data show that in a few specific wavelengths of infrared light, the galaxies are considerably brighter than scientists anticipated. The study is the first to confirm this phenomenon for a large sampling of galaxies from this period, showing that these were not special cases of excessive brightness, but that even average galaxies present at that time were much brighter in these wavelengths than galaxies we see today.

No one knows for sure when the first stars in our universe burst to life. But evidence suggests that between about 100 million and 200 million years after the big bang, the universe was filled mostly with neutral hydrogen gas that had perhaps just begun to coalesce into stars, which then began to form the first galaxies. By about 1 billion years after the big bang, the universe had become a sparkling firmament. Something else had changed, too: Electrons of the omnipresent neutral hydrogen gas had been stripped away in a process known as ionization. The Epoch of Reionization — the changeover from a universe full of neutral hydrogen to one filled with ionized hydrogen — is well documented.

Before this universe-wide transformation, long-wavelength forms of light, such as radio waves and visible light, traversed the universe more or less unencumbered. But shorter wavelengths of light — including ultraviolet light, X-rays and gamma rays — were stopped short by neutral hydrogen atoms. These collisions would strip the neutral hydrogen atoms of their electrons, ionizing them.

Image above: This artist's illustration shows what one of the very first galaxies in the universe might have looked like. High levels of violent star formation and star death would have illuminated the gas filling the space between stars, making the galaxy largely opaque and without a clear structure. Image Credits: James Josephides (Swinburne Astronomy Productions).

But what could have possibly produced enough ionizing radiation to affect all the hydrogen in the universe? Was it individual stars? Giant galaxies? If either were the culprit, those early cosmic colonizers would have been different than most modern stars and galaxies, which typically don't release high amounts of ionizing radiation. Then again, perhaps something else entirely caused the event, such as quasars — galaxies with incredibly bright centers powered by huge amounts of material orbiting supermassive black holes.

"It's one of the biggest open questions in observational cosmology," said Stephane De Barros, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. "We know it happened, but what caused it? These new findings could be a big clue."

Looking for Light

To peer back in time to the era just before the Epoch of Reionization ended, Spitzer stared at two regions of the sky for more than 200 hours each, allowing the space telescope to collect light that had traveled for more than 13 billion years to reach us.

As some of the longest science observations ever carried out by Spitzer, they were part of an observing campaign called GREATS, short for GOODS Re-ionization Era wide-Area Treasury from Spitzer. GOODS (itself an acronym: Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey) is another campaign that performed the first observations of some GREATS targets. The study, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, also used archival data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

Using these ultra-deep observations by Spitzer, the team of astronomers observed 135 distant galaxies and found that they were all particularly bright in two specific wavelengths of infrared light produced by ionizing radiation interacting with hydrogen and oxygen gases within the galaxies. This implies that these galaxies were dominated by young, massive stars composed mostly of hydrogen and helium. They contain very small amounts of "heavy" elements (like nitrogen, carbon and oxygen) compared to stars found in average modern galaxies.

These stars were not the first stars to form in the universe (those would have been composed of hydrogen and helium only) but were still members of a very early generation of stars. The Epoch of Reionization wasn't an instantaneous event, so while the new results are not enough to close the book on this cosmic event, they do provide new details about how the universe evolved at this time and how the transition played out.

"We did not expect that Spitzer, with a mirror no larger than a Hula-Hoop, would be capable of seeing galaxies so close to the dawn of time," said Michael Werner, Spitzer's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "But nature is full of surprises, and the unexpected brightness of these early galaxies, together with Spitzer's superb performance, puts them within range of our small but powerful observatory."

NASA Spitzer Space Telescope

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch in 2021, will study the universe in many of the same wavelengths observed by Spitzer. But where Spitzer's primary mirror is only 85 centimeters (33.4 inches) in diameter, Webb's is 6.5 meters (21 feet) — about 7.5 times larger — enabling Webb to study these galaxies in far greater detail. In fact, Webb will try to detect light from the first stars and galaxies in the universe. The new study shows that due to their brightness in those infrared wavelengths, the galaxies observed by Spitzer will be easier for Webb to study than previously thought.

"These results by Spitzer are certainly another step in solving the mystery of cosmic reionization," said Pascal Oesch, an assistant professor at the University of Geneva and a co-author on the study. "We now know that the physical conditions in these early galaxies were very different than in typical galaxies today. It will be the job of the James Webb Space Telescope to work out the detailed reasons why."

JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena. Space operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at IPAC at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

New study:

For more information on Spitzer, visit: and

Images (mentioned), Animation, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Calla Cofield.

Best regards,

InSight Sees Drifting Clouds on Mars

NASA - InSight Mission patch.

May 8, 2019

NASA's InSight Mars Lander used its Instrument Context Camera beneath the lander's deck to image these drifting clouds at sunset on the Red Planet. This image was taken on April 25, 2019, the 145th Martian day, or sol, of the mission, starting at around 6:30 p.m. Mars local time.

Related article:

For InSight, Dust Cleanings Will Yield New Science

InSight Mars Lander:

Image, Text, Credit: NASA.


mardi 7 mai 2019

New Science Being Unpacked and Worked Aboard Orbital Lab

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

May 7, 2019

Six spaceships are now parked at the International Space Station and the Expedition 59 crew is working on the newest science delivered Monday. Astronauts will continue to live and work in space longer and scientists want to know how humans and a variety of other organisms adapt to support these missions.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain tended to several dozen mice delivered to the orbital lab Monday on the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. The rodents’ immune systems are similar to humans and scientists are monitoring them to detect any changes caused microgravity.

Image above: The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is installed to the Harmony module’s Earth-facing port a few hours after it was captured by astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Nick Hague with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on May 6, 2019. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch set up the Microgravity Science Glovebox today to begin operations with the new Micro-14 pathogen study. Microgravity can increase the virulence of pathogens and doctors are seeking to understand the process to keep space crews safe and healthy.

Koch and McClain both started Tuesday unpacking frozen biological samples from Dragon. The duo stowed the samples into different science freezers aboard the station for later analysis and experimental work.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

McClain, Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineer Nick Hague also explored head and eye pressure caused by upward fluid shifts due to the effects of microgravity. The long-running human research experiment seeks to reverse the upward flow and alleviate the symptoms reported by astronauts.

Related links:

Expedition 59:

Microgravity Science Glovebox:


Fluid shifts:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Best regards,

Hubble Spots Stunning Spiral Galaxy

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope (HST) patch.

May 7, 2019

Few of the universe’s residents are as iconic as the spiral galaxy. These limelight-hogging celestial objects combine whirling, pinwheeling arms with scatterings of sparkling stars, glowing bursts of gas, and dark, weaving lanes of cosmic dust, creating truly awesome scenes — especially when viewed through a telescope such as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. In fact, this image from Hubble frames a perfect spiral specimen: the stunning NGC 2903.

NGC 2903 is located about 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (the Lion), and was studied as part of a Hubble survey of the central regions of roughly 145 nearby disk galaxies. This study aimed to help astronomers better understand the relationship between the black holes that lurk at the cores of galaxies like these, and the rugby-ball-shaped bulge of stars, gas and dust at the galaxy’s center — such as that seen in this image.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Text Credits: ESA (European Space Agency)/NASA/Rob Garner/Image, Animation, Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, L. Ho et al.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of April 29, 2019

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

May 7, 2019

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station installed a variety of hardware and set up science experiments that arrived via a Cygnus resupply ship. Crew members also collected samples for investigations.

Space to Ground: The Droids You're Looking For: 05/03/2019

Here are details on some of the scientific activities the Expedition 59 crew members conducted the week of April 29:

Documenting life on the space station

A crewmember performed an ISS Experience Log recording and hardware setup in the US LAB to record on-orbit operations, including an introduction prior to crew activities. The ISS Experience creates a cinematic virtual reality film documenting daily life aboard the space station. The eight-to-ten-minute videos created from footage taken during the six-month investigation cover different aspects of crew life, execution of science aboard the station, and the international partnerships involved.

Flying robots in space

Image above: NASA astronaut Anne McClain shown next to the Astrobee robot on an initial test flight inside the ISS. The Astrobee facility enables robotic free flyer technology research in microgravity and is used to test computer vision, robotic manipulation, control algorithms, and Human-Robot Interaction. Image Credit: NASA.

Crewmembers reviewed procedures and performed a test fly around of the Astrobee free flyer. Astrobee is a series of three free-flying, cube-shaped robots. The first two robots arrived on Cygnus.  The third robot will arrive this summer on SpaceX CRS-18. The robots are designed to help scientists and engineers develop and test technologies for use in microgravity to assist astronauts with routine chores and give ground controllers additional eyes and ears on the space station. The autonomous robots, powered by fans and vision-based navigation, perform crew monitoring, sampling, logistics management, and accommodate up to three investigations.

Animation above: NASA astronaut Anne McClain connects one of two Astrobee robots into a docking station for initial activation and checkout. Third robot will arrive during the summer. The autonomous robots, powered by fans and vision-based navigation, perform crew monitoring, sampling, logistics management, and can accommodate up to three investigations. Animation Credit: NASA.

Testing immune response in microgravity

The crew restocked Rodent Habitats 3 and 4 and completed Mass Measurement Injection activities. The crew also replaced food bars in Habitats 1 and 2. Rodent Research-12, Tetanus Antibody Response by B cells in Space (TARBIS), examines the effects of spaceflight on the function of antibody production and immune memory. Spaceflight has a dramatic influence on immune response, but there is little research on its effect following a challenge to the body’s immune system. Using a mouse model makes this possible since the mouse immune system closely parallels that of humans.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- Veggie Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System (PONDS) uses a newly developed passive nutrient delivery system and the Veggie plant growth facility aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to cultivate lettuce and mizuna greens which are to be harvested on-orbit and consumed, with samples returned to Earth for analysis:

Image above: Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques injects water to irrigate Veggie PONDS seedlings. PONDS units have features designed to mitigate microgravity’s effects on water distribution while also increasing oxygen exchange and providing sufficient room for root zone growth. Image Credit: NASA.

- The Fiber Optic Production investigation creates optical fibers with high commercial value aboard the ISS using a blend of zirconium, barium, lanthanum, sodium, and aluminum called ZBLAN (ZrF4-BaF2-LaF3-AlF3-NaF):

- The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Educational Payload Operations (EPO) activities are intended to encourage and strengthen the teaching of science curriculum, and through this, to stimulate the curiosity of students and motivate them towards further study of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects:

Related links:

Expedition 59:

The ISS Experience:



Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/Jorge Sotomayor, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 59/60.

Best regards,

Beyond the Metal: Investigating Soft Robots at NASA Langley

NASA Langley Research Center logo.

May 7, 2019

Beyond the Metal- NASA Investigating Soft Robots for Space Exploration

Video above: In Langley’s Makerspace Lab, interns Chuck Sullivan and Jack Fitzpatrick are developing a series of soft robot actuators by 3D printing flexible silicone molds. While in the early stages of their research, the pair is looking at a series of properties to understand how actuators can be built and used in space. Video Credits: NASA/Gary Banzinger.

Into the Spiderverse’s newest crew of villains include a brilliant scientist named Doctor Octopus who uses flexible robotic arms to commit her dastardly deeds. Her bionic arms can throw objects, aid her in moving quickly in fight scenes, and a host of other functions. While we can leave the evil geniuses to the movies, two genius interns are investigating soft robotics like the supervillain’s incredible arms for viability beyond our planet at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

In Langley’s makerspace lab, Chuck Sullivan and Jack Fitzpatrick are developing a series of soft robot actuators. “What we’re investigating is the viability of soft robotics in space exploration and assembly,” said Sullivan.

While the word ‘robot’ conjures images of metal arms and gears, soft robotic actuators are bioinspired, looking at the way nature works to create new robot movements. By being constructed from highly flexible materials, soft robots are able to move similarly to living organisms, allowing new ranges of motion that traditional robots simple can’t have. Space applications of these actuators can expand the role of robots in exploration and assembly.

“When you actuate the soft robot, it changes how you use the material properties,” said Fitzpatrick. “A piece of rubber going from flat to the shape of a finger, it changes the material into something else.”

While in the early stages of their research, Sullivan and Fitzpatrick are looking at a series of properties to understand how actuators can be built and used in space. Their current process is to 3D print a mold and then pour in a flexible substance like silicone. By design, the actuator has chambers, or air bladders, that expand and compress based on the amount of air in them.

Image above: Intern Jack Fitzpatrick pours silicone into a 3D printed mold to create a soft robotic actuator. Image Credits: NASA/David C. Bowman.

Currently, these two interns are operating the design through a series of tubes in the air bladders, allowing them to control the movement of the robot. By adjusting the amount of air in the chamber of the soft robotic actuator, the robot can flex and relax, just like a human muscle.

Soft robotics is a relatively novel concept. In fact, both Sullivan and Fitzpatrick are new to the field.  Computer Engineer and Principal Investigator James Neillan, along with Co-Principal Investigator Matt Mahlin, developed the intern project to investigate the viability of soft robots in space.

Sullivan was introduced in 2015 through working with in-space assembly groups. “James Neillan and Matt Mahlin invited me to come work on it, knowing what I’ve done with in-space assembly before,” said Sullivan.

Fitzpatrick, on his third internship at Langley, had also never heard of soft robotics prior to this opportunity. “It sounded like an interesting project and I wanted to learn more about it,” said Fitzpatrick.

Creating an actuator is only the first step. Sullivan and Fitzpatrick are starting at ground zero, investigating how this technology can be used in space for both assembly and exploration. From their investigations, they hope to help see what other applications soft robotics could have in the future. To do that, they need to create actuator designs and test them in a series of experiments.

Image above: Sullivan and Fitzpatrick operate a soft robotic actuator. Together, they created the controller and actuator with 3D printed parts made at NASA Langley. Image Credits: NASA/David C. Bowman.

Scientific method dictates that when creating an experiment, a researcher will, first construct a hypothesis, second, test the experiment, and then analyze the data gathered. From there, troubleshooting the new information discovered allows new questions: What worked? What didn’t? What should be changed next?

From there the researcher makes changes to the experiment and tries again, collecting new data and analyzing the information. The process can be repeated until the experiments have accumulated enough data to reach a conclusion to answer the original hypothesis. That’s what Sullivan and Fitzpatrick are doing.

As researchers, the pair of interns has determined four lines of inquiry about the properties of actuators: mobility, joining, leveling, and shaping. Based on these properties, Sullivan and Fitzpatrick plan on establishing what the potential uses and limitations of soft robotics in space exploration and assembly.

“We are trying to see the basic capabilities of soft robots through these four properties. That way when someone down the road says maybe soft robotics is useful in a different application they can look at our work as a baseline,” says Sullivan.

The first is mobility, looking into how the actuator is able to move.  For example, moving across the lunar surface. Joining, as the second key property, is vital to understanding exploring how the robots would interlock and link together. Two soft robots could connect together to produce a large temporary shelter.

Soft robotic actuator. Animation Credit: NASA

The third property is leveling, how the actuators can successfully create or adjust a desired surface, like to temporarily fill in the space under a lunar habitat module. “It doesn’t have to be a flat level plain. It can be some other surface shape,” says Fitzpatrick.

Lastly, the fourth property is strengthening, which looks at adding strength to a material by pressurizing it using the air bladders. “We use the actuator to get the soft robot into a position and we lock it into place, using a jamming technique,” said Sullivan. This technique can be used to passively strengthen another structure, like a dust shield.

“We see these four things as the crux of the problem. Once we can accomplish those in individual unit tests, we would like to figure out ways to combine them, so maybe we combine mobility and joining.” Sullivan explained.

The hope is to use soft robots in situations that are “dangerous, dirty, or dull,” according to Fitzpatrick, to help keep astronauts safe and productive while conducting their lives in space and other planetary bodies.

In early May, experts from a variety of disciplines and fields will come to Langley to provide feedback on Fitzpatrick’s and Sullivan’s designs and research so far. With this feedback, Sullivan and Fitzpatrick can learn about additional applications and questions for further inquiry as the project continues through the summer.

NASA Langley Research Center:

Space Tech:

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Natalie Joseph/Langley Research Center/Andrea Lloyd.


lundi 6 mai 2019

Rocket Lab successfully launches three R&D satellites to orbit for the U.S. Air Force

Rocket Lab - STP-27RD Mission patch.

May 6, 2019

 Rocket Lab Electron carrying STP-27RD mission launch

A Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle successfully lifted off from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 06:00 UTC, Sunday 5 May 2019 (18:00 NZST). The STP-27RD mission launched three research and development satellites for the DoD Space Test Program that will demonstrate advanced space technologies, including a satellite to evaluate new ways of tracking space debris.

The mission is Rocket Lab’s second for 2019 and took the total number of satellites deployed to orbit by the company to 28. The DoD Space Test Program, under Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center, procured the STP-27RD mission in partnership with Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) as part of the Rapid Agile Launch Initiative. This initiative leveraged Other Transaction (OT) authority to competitively rapidly award DoD launch service contracts with non-traditional, commercial small launch companies.

Rocket Lab Electron launches STP-27RD

“It’s a testament to our team and mission partners that Electron has placed another three satellites in orbit, just weeks after our flawless mission for DARPA,” says Rocket Lab Founder and CEO Peter Beck. “We’re proud to have delivered 100% mission success for the launch procured by the Department of Defense’s Rapid Agile Launch Initiative, proving once again Rocket Lab’s ability to provide responsive and streamlined space access.”

Falcon Orbital Debris Experiment (Falcon ODE)

Approximately 54 minutes after lift-off, the Electron launch vehicle’s Kick Stage successfully deployed the three payloads to their designated orbits. The Space Plug and Play Architecture Research CubeSat-1 (SPARC-1) mission, sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV), is a joint Swedish-United States experiment to explore technology developments in avionics miniaturization, software defined radio systems, and space situational awareness (SSA).  The Falcon Orbital Debris Experiment (Falcon ODE), sponsored by the United States Air Force Academy, will evaluate ground-based tracking of space objects.  Harbinger, a commercial small satellite built by York Space Systems and sponsored by the U.S Army, will demonstrate the ability of an experimental commercial system to meet DoD space capability requirements.

Space Plug and Play Architecture Research CubeSat-1 (SPARC-1)

The STP-27RD mission carried Rocket Lab’s heaviest payload to date, with the three satellites weighing in at around 180 kg. The highly experienced Rocket Lab team have now delivered 28 satellites into orbit, enabling operations in space debris mitigation, Earth observation, ship and airplane tracking and radio communications. Rocket Lab’s manifest is booked with monthly launches for the remainder of 2019 for a range of commercial and U.S. Government customers. Rocket Lab will scale to a launch every two weeks by the end of the year. The majority of launches in 2019 are scheduled to lift-off from Launch Complex 1, with the first mission from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2 at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia scheduled for late 2019.

For more information about Rocket Lab, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Credits: Images and video courtesy of Rocket Lab/SciNews.


SpaceX Cargo Craft Attached to Station

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

May 6, 2019

Two days after its launch from Florida, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 9:32 a.m. EDT.

The 17th contracted commercial resupply mission from SpaceX (CRS-17) delivers more than 5,500 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory.

Image above: May 6, 2019: International Space Station Configuration. Six spaceships are docked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter and Russia’s Progress 71 and 72 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-11 and MS-12 crew ships. Image Credit: NASA.

Here’s some of the science arriving at station:

Scientists are using a new technology called tissue chips, which could help predict the effectiveness of potential medicines in humans. Fluid that mimics blood can be passed through the chip to simulate blood flow, and can include drugs or toxins. In microgravity, changes occur in human health and human cells that resemble accelerated aging and disease processes. This investigation allows scientists to make observations over the course of a few weeks in microgravity rather than the months it would take in a laboratory on Earth.

The Hermes facility allows scientists to study the dusty, fragmented debris covering asteroids and moons, called regolith. Once installed by astronauts on the space station, scientists will be able to take over the experiment from Earth to study how regolith particles behave in response to long-duration exposure to microgravity, including changes to pressure, temperate and shocks from impacts and other forces. The investigations will provide insight into the formation and behavior of asteroids, comets, impact dynamics and planetary evolution.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations that will help us learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars. Space station research also provides opportunities for other U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments, and products that improve life on Earth.

After Dragon spends approximately one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with about XX pounds of cargo and research.

Busy Monday as Astronauts Grapple Dragon and Store Critical Experiments

This morning, just two days following its nighttime launch from the Florida coast, SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft was captured and installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 9:32 a.m. EDT.

Expedition 59 astronauts David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Nick Hague of NASA successfully employed the space station’s robotic arm to grapple Dragon at 7:01 a.m., which brings the number of spaceships docked at the space station to six. Other vehicles visiting include Russia’s Progress 71 and 72 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-11 and MS-12 crew ships, as well as Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter.

Image above: At the Mission Control Center in Houston, Expedition 59 flight controllers monitor the capture and berthing of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft to the Harmony module of the International Space Station on May 6. Image Credits: NASA/Josh Valcarcel.

Dragon’s arrival heralds a busy week for the crew. Today, NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch unpacked and activated time-critical experiments after completing checkout of the spacecraft. Fresh biological samples, such as kidney cells, were stowed in science freezers and incubators for later analysis. New lab mice were also quickly transferred and housed in specialized habitats to enhance research for an immune system study that aims to keep astronauts healthy for long-duration missions in space, which will become even more commonplace as our destinations extend to the Moon and beyond.

SpaceX’s 17th cargo flight to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract supports dozens of new and existing investigations. NASA’s research and development work aboard the space station contributes to the agency’s deep space exploration plans, including returning astronauts to the Moon’s surface in five years.

Related articles:

Astronaut Commands Robotic Arm to Capture Dragon Cargo Craft

SpaceX Dragon Heads to Space Station After Successful Launch

Drone Ship Power Issue Forces Scrub of CRS-17 Launch

Hermes to Bring Asteroid Research to the ISS

Dragon’s 17th Flight Carries Science to the Space Station

Related links:

Expedition 59:

Kidney cells:

Immune system study:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Moon and Mars:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Norah Moran.

Best regards,